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Rockville, Md., Oct. 23 – Speechless had two important teachable lessons in this week’s episode. This episode highlighted the importance of being an aide to a child with a disability and the value of parents letting their children try new things before deciding if they can or cannot do it.

J.J.’s mother Maya took on the task of training underachiever teachers at the school to become aides for new students with disabilities. At first it seems like the aides were not very interested in learning, so Maya decided to make them quit, which would allow the district to hire qualified aides. However, Kenneth secretly gave them advice and told them not to quit, and they prove themselves worthy of the position.

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Tichenor Clinic for Children's Logo. It includes the name of the organization, and the slogan "Keeping Adelaide's Vision".Long Beach, Calif., Oct. 19 – When talking about outcomes for children with disabilities, the conversation generally is bleak. It is no secret that many times success in life is heavily tied to one’s education. For the people of Long Beach, California, it is no different. Why so? Long Beach is a city where 19 percent of the population is in poverty, the medium household income is lower than the national average; 29.2 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher. This means that people without education in Long Beach are some of the poorest in the city.

As for the youth, students with disabilities in Long Beach lag behind their counterparts in high school graduation, as well as higher achievement attainment. With a higher student to teacher ratio and lower than average test scores, the Long Beach community is worse off educationally than the state of California, as well as schools across the nation. However, having a disability is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. With early intervention, children with disabilities can, and do, succeed.

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Companies that do include people with disabilities, however, find it successful

Graphic Text: Kessler Foundation 2017 National Employment Disability Survey Supervisor PerspectiveWashington, D.C., Oct. 17 – A new study, entitled the National Employment and Disability Survey Supervisor Perspectives and conducted by the University of New Hampshire, was released in the U.S. Capitol in honor of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The survey showed that very few companies have an intentional plan as a part of their diversity efforts to include people with disabilities. Indeed, while 28 percent of organizations have disability hiring goals, only 12 percent of companies include disability as part of their diversity efforts. In comparison, 45 percent have hiring goals for other types of diversity. Even though disability advocates are saying that disability is part of diversity in the workplace, that message is still not getting across to businesses.

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2017 Employer of the Year designs system to educate its health care providers

Meagan Mauney headshot

Meagan Mauney

Rockville, Md., Oct. 17 – “They snatch you. They push you. They’ll grab you around the shoulders and push you along.”

So says Meagan Mauney, who is legally blind, of how people who are blind are often treated by the uniformed.

Mauney, Accessibility Consultant for Florida Blue, is working to change this through education and Florida Blue’s Distinction Program, which offers its customers a way to choose more mindful and educated practitioners.

“Leverage the resources around you,” Mauney says.

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Rockville, Md., Oct. 17 – For Eli Hinson, a Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) Associate who has dyslexia and a hearing impairment, “having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the stars.”

“Don’t let your disability stop you from doing what you enjoy whether it’s a career or whether it’s a hobby,” said Hinson.

Hinson was named 2016 employee of the year, an award that recognizes “the professional and personal achievements of outstanding individuals with disabilities.”

“I’m proud to work for a firm that supports all its employees and provides them with the tools and environment they need for success,” said Hinson.

Hinson leads the management consulting firm’s diverseAbility forum, which was created to educate and build awareness for all employees on disability-related issues in the workplace. She is a member of BAH’s section 508 Community of Practice (CoP), which endorses the firm’s inclusion initiatives, as well as a dynamic presenter on BAH’s Disability Mentoring Day.

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Rockville, Md., Oct. 17 – Jenny Lay-Flurrie is the senior director for accessibility, online safety and privacy at Microsoft. She also has been deaf nearly her whole life. However, she has not always had total hearing loss, and found that the condition had been continually getting worse as time went on. Surprisingly, no one in the Microsoft office had known about Lay-Flurrie’s hearing loss until after a year had passed in the office, at which point her hearing had gotten bad enough that she felt she could no longer efficiently do her job. However, once she asked for help, Microsoft immediately took action and offered assistance and was willing to help accommodate her in any way.

Jenny Lay Flurrie playing the clarinet on her deck

Jenny Lay Flurrie

“It took me a long time to figure out my disability is a strength. We are born problem solvers, loyal, and driven. I wouldn’t change my journey for the world – it’s made me who I am – but there is a smarter way to do this,” Lay-Flurrie said. “There is so much that I can do to help others personally and in my role at Microsoft. There are a billion people with disabilities in the world. We’ve got to get it right for them.”

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Michelle Rodriguez looking fierce

Michelle Rodriguez on set

Rockville, Md., Oct. 16 – The country just finished celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on September 15, 2017 and ended October 15, 2017. National Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrates their heritage and culture. It is important to note this includes 4,869,400 Latinos living with a disability in the U.S.

Only 37 percent of working-age Latinos with disabilities are employed in the U.S., compared to 73.9 percent of working-age Latinos without disabilities. This is in line with the rest of the country, with fully one-in-five Americans having a disability and just 30 percent of those who are working-age being employed, despite polls showing that most of them want to work.

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Dr. Victor Pineda seated in wheelchair with assistive breathing device

Dr. Victor Pineda

Rockville, Md., Oct. 16 – For more than 20 years, scholar Dr. Victor Pineda has been an advocate for the disability community. Pineda himself is a wheelchair user and originally was diagnosed with muscular atrophy, a disease that causes the muscles to deteriorate; however, after being examined later in life, doctors concluded that the specific cause of his disability is unknown but has similar effects.

Dr. Pineda was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He and his mother moved to California after Pineda faced discrimination in Venezuelan grade schools. But it was not until college that his colloquy for disability rights and inclusion budded.

“In the late 90s, at the University of California, Berkeley, I was introduced to the rich and dynamic history of the disability rights and independent living movement,” said Dr. Pineda. “As an undergraduate rolling freely down Telegraph Avenue (a street in California), I realized I was the beneficiary of a long line of scholars and advocates who fought for disability justice.”

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Salma Hayek wearing a black tank smiling for the camera

Salma Hayek

Rockville, Md., Oct 15 – Actress and producer Salma Hayek Jiménez has embraced her disability – dyslexia – from a very young age. Born in Mexico, Hayek was sent to a Catholic boarding school in New Orleans at the age of 12 where she was quickly expelled for setting all of the nun’s clocks back three hours.

“I’m very lucky I didn’t have it easy, because I’ve learned so much from having to figure out everything on my own and create things for myself,” said Hayek. “Now I can teach what I’ve learned to the next generation.”

After boarding school, Hayek spent time at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City; however, she quit to pursue her acting career and left Mexico for Hollywood.

“I came here and I didn’t speak English, I didn’t have a green card, I didn’t know I had to have an agent, I couldn’t drive, I was dyslexic,” she said in an interview with Oprah.

But Hayek did not let any of that stop her. She adjusted. Reading scripts more slowly due to her dyslexia and working on her memorization skills so she would only have to read the lines once, she landed parts in major films such as Fools Rush In and Will Smith’s Wild Wild West.

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Selena Gomez wearing a black dress, smiling broadly

Selena Gomez

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Two years ago, pop star and actress Selena Gomez strutted onto Ellen DeGeneres stage wearing a black floor-length dress and heels. Her hair was slicked back and wavy. Her face held a look of intention. She sat with both a stiff back and smile and told Ellen and the world what it is like to live with Lupus.

“It is an autoimmune disease; I will have it forever and you just have to take care of yourself,” Gomez told Ellen and the audience. “I can relate to people.”

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack itself, unable to differentiate between its own healthy tissue and invaders. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, 1.5 million people have Lupus in America and five million have it worldwide.

Since her diagnosis, Gomez now 25, has prioritized her wellbeing but also has continued advancing her career. Studies show many people within the Latino and other communities hide their invisible disability due to negative stigmas, but Gomez has chosen to use her expansive platform to educate the world and invite people to engage with and learn about disabilities. It is because of this, that she is the perfect candidate for RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which is highlighting individuals with disabilities who are extremely successful in their chosen career.

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